So you have a leather interior and you want to make it look beautiful and last a long time. And you’ve turned to the almighty Google to track down the best leather conditioner for cars.
I’m guessing a friend, relative, or car dealer probably told you that you need to condition your car’s leather seats. Most likely because leather is special and it requires extra care. Or because it’s just like your skin and needs to stay moisturized.
Or maybe you have a favorite pair of leather boots or a leather jacket that you always condition to keep them looking beautiful and new.
These are all good reasons to be seeking out the best leather conditioner for cars. But I’m here to tell you that there’s no need for you to use such a product.
Before I explain why, let’s talk about what leather conditioner does.
What is leather conditioner?
Leather is prized for its durability and flexibility. Consider shoes. How many thousand steps does one take in a year? Leather shoes are so comfortable because they flex and last for so long. And they often conform to your feet.
Think about other applications — horse saddles, guitar straps, baseball gloves…. The list can go on and on. These are all things that take a lot of use and abuse… and when they are made of leather, they last a very long time… and often improve over time!
So it makes good sense to use leather on car seats.. Think of all the times you slide your butt in and out of your car seats.
Leather is skin. And when said skin is still attached to a living organism (I know, a little disturbing, sorry! ) it is receiving nourishment and moisture.
After leather is processed (tanned, colored, etc.) it no longer receives the nourishment that it did when it was alive.
Despite being such a long-lasting material, it still requires maintenance to last even LONGER and maintain it’s flexibility and durability.
Over time, leather will lose its natural oils and moisture. When this happens, it will start to dry and crack.
Leather conditioner prevents this breakdown and extends the life of your leather products even further..
Why wouldn’t I want this for my car seats?
What if I told you everything you know about leather conditioner for car seats is wrong?
It’s true, Neo. Want to know why?
Because your car seats are clear coated.
Just like your exterior paint, there is a clear layer of protection applied to the surface of your car’s leather seats. And this holds true with almost all modern car leathers.
In its most basic form, the clear coating is a crystal clear layer of flexible plastic material on the surface of your car seats. It’s meant to shield your beautiful leather seats from the everyday “oops” situations that we all have.
Admit it…. You’ve spilled coffee in your lap while driving. If you have kids, one of them has lost the top of their ice cream cone in the back seat (and if it hasn’t happened yet, IT WILL). And then the worst…. Rover gets sick.
Ugh. Reality is: life happens in your car.
So thankfully auto manufacturers have thoughtfully added this layer of protection on your seats that makes them nearly bulletproof to all of these things that can (and will) happen in your car.
All that said…. Your seats are also bulletproof to leather conditioner.
Think about it…. If you apply leather conditioner to your car seats, you will be applying it to an impenetrable clear coat and the conditioner will never reach the leather to do its job.
In fact, applying leather conditioner to your car seats can be counterproductive and actually make them dirty!
Why? Think about it… the conditioner will leave a tacky layer of an often oil-based product on your seats that can actually ATTRACT grime!
So bottom line, applying leather conditioner to car seats isn’t the best idea. It certainly won’t harm your seats, but the conditioner (unfortunately) won’t be doing you any favors like it does on your leather shoes and baseball glove.
But there’s a bunch of sites out there that recommend “the best leather conditioner for cars”.
Yes, there are dozens of websites out there recommending the best leather conditioner for cars. But take a closer look at those websites. Many of them are just listing “best” products with links to buy the products on Amazon. If you click on one of those links and make a purchase, Amazon sends them a commission.
Full disclosure, I do the exact same thing with Amazon links. But understand that I’m here to speak the truth and am doing my best to share what I know to help you make better decisions when it comes to caring for your car. Good attracts good… and that’s what I’m all about.
But why do companies market and sell leather conditioner for car seats?
You are correct. There are dozens of car leather conditioner products on the shelves at your favorite car care shop… and it may be hard to believe that they are being sold every day to consumers in an almost dishonest way. But it’s true!
To give you more proof and assurance that I’m not just blowing smoke here, here are a couple of links to other sites that also explain there’s no such thing as the best leather conditioner for cars.
First… an article from Tim at Canadian Gearhead. It’s called “Leather Conditioners Are Junk! What You Should Be Using”
And second… Darren from Best Auto Detailing Tips wrote this article named “Auto Leather Conditioner: Fact and Fiction”
Both Tim and Darren are veteran auto detailers. They share what they have learned through years of experience actually detailing cars. These guys really know their stuff!
Tim and Darren ARE NOT like those websites that crank out a hundreds of car product reviews with the primary goal of making commissions on your Amazon purchases. They, like me, are out there sharing good information for you.
Why are leather conditioners for cars on the market if they don’t work?
Good question. (Which means I don’t know the answer!)
Big corporations exist to make money. And if products sell and make profits, you can bet the corporations will keep selling them.
For what it’s worth, the products probably do condition leather. But, as I’ve pointed out, the conditioner can’t permeate the clear coat and will never reach the leather to do its job!
Not all leather conditioner companies are dishonest
Here’s something else to consider… There are companies that produce leather conditioner that is not specific to the automobile industry. Their products are marketed to be used on a variety of leather products (shoes, straps, bags, etc.)
Leather Honey is one of these companies. Leather Honey is one of the best leather conditioners on the market. They claim to be the top-selling leather conditioner on Amazon – which is a pretty big deal.
What’s cool about Leather Honey is that they are honest with people looking to care for their leather car seats. Leather Honey actually points out on their website that their product isn’t effective on leather car seats with clearcoat! Here is a direct quote:
“…car manufacturers apply a protective barrier on leather seats, preventing Leather Honey and other leather conditioners from penetrating…”
You can view the source page here.
So how do I protect my leather car seats?
The most important thing you can do is keep them clean! Simply vacuuming your seats and using the right cleaner will work wonders! I’ll write about this in a future post.
There are products out there you can use to prolong the life of the clear coat on your car seats. Using these products is a lot like waxing the exterior of your car.
Best products to protect leather car seats
Now that you’ve learned that leather conditioner for cars is complete baloney, let’s talk about what you can do to protect and maintain the clear coat on your leather car seats… because like everything in life, time and use will wear it down.
Interestingly, there aren’t many products that strengthen your leather interior’s clear coat. One major brand produces one, but I personally can’t recommend it because the same brand also sells a BS auto leather conditioner that uses “moisturizing oils for superior conditioning”…. Which actually means… it leaves a greasy residue on top of your leather’s clear coat that will attract grime!!
If the company is going to be dishonest and sell a BS product, I won’t recommend anything.
Europe seems to be the continent that truly understands auto leather, as all of my recommended products come from Europe. If you are reading in this in the United States, only one product is readily available in the states and it is…
Gtechniq L1 Leather Guard AB
Gethniq L1 Leather Guard AB strengthens the clear coat on your leather seats. It does all the good stuff like resist scratching, protects against the sun’s UV rays, and stops dye transfer (so your fly new jeans don’t stain your leather seats!)
It also has BioCote antimicrobial technology which claims to kill 99.9% of bacteria. This will stop your seats from smelling funky. Always a plus!
Here’s a quote taken directly from Gtechniq’s website about L1 Leather Guard and iit echos all you’ve learned you so far:
“Many leather products market themselves on how they feed leather, when in fact this is not needed. Modern automotive leather use synthetic fat liquors which do not evaporate. Any product that is designed to feed leathers will not be absorbed by modern automotive leathers but instead remain on the surface attracting dirt which will then act as an abrasive foreshortening the leather’s finish.”
Link to buy on Gtechniq L1 Leather Guard on Amazon
Dr. Leather Dye Block
Dr. Leather works with companies that produce leather to make their product better. So it stands to reason that they will know a thing or two about how to properly protect and preserve leather.
Their website has some great technical information about leather used in car interiors. So if you like to geek out on the science behind things, you’ll love their site. Here’s a quote from the site that addresses the fact that car leather conditioners are BS:
“…cleaning is still very important, but the feeding is now a bit of a myth, because these so-called ‘conditioners’ cannot get into the leather any longer due to the tough coating systems used.”
This great diagram taken from the Dr. Leather website shows a cross section of modern leather and how it is clear coated:
Dr. Leather’s product named Dyeblock is meant to strengthen the protection of your leather interior’s topcoat. It is formulated specifically to do the following:
- Make your leather more resistant to dirt and grime
- Make your seats easier to clean (because they resist grime)
- Prevent dye transfer from clothing (important on light-colored leathers)
Link to buy Dr. Leather Dyeblock on Amazon UK
Dodo Juice Supernatural Leather Sealant
Dodo Juice is another UK-based company that makes a great leather protectant product. They also understand that car leather interiors have a clear coat and therefore require a different type of care. Check out this video produced by Dodo Juice:
Supernatural Leather Sealant is another great choice. Just like the other products I recommend, Supernatural Leather Sealant repels grime, strengthen’s your leather’s topcoat, and prevents dye transfer from your coating.
Dodo Juice also claims that this product also helps condition your leather car seats by locking moisture into the leather and helps to elasticise the surface. The result is fewer cracks and wrinkles.
Link to buy Supernatural Leather Sealant directly from the DoDo Juice website.
I know you came here looking for the best leather conditioner for cars and I completely discouraged you from buying it!
BUT…. I hope you’re now a little bit smarter and now know the RIGHT way to care for your car’s leather interior.
You want to take care of your car’s interior and you most definitely still should! Just give it a good cleaning and use one of the products I told you about to strengthen the topcoat on your seats to keep them looking good and lasting a long time.
You’ll thank me the next time you spill a coffee in your lap (you know it will happen!) That coffee will bead up like the raindrops on your hood and clean up nice and easy.
2 thoughts on “The Truth About the Best Leather Conditioner for Cars”
Umm. I broadly agree. However, are you sure that ALL leather seats in a modern car are clear coated as you describe? The Muliner leather seats in my 2012 Bentley do NOT appear to be coated. They are completely matte in appearance – also they are very thick hide compared to my other cars and perforated. I think they might be far superior to the leathers used in many other vehicles, but I could be completely wrong. I tried a test on a small area under a seat and the dye used was instantly sucked up into the leather, like blotting paper. Really! I was surprised. I want to protect a truly beautiful real leather light beige interior. Have you any experience of cleaning/protecting Bentley leathers? What would you recommend?
I don’t know about ALL seats being coated. I said “almost all” are.
And your assumptions about your Bentley’s seats being far superior to leathers used in other are correct. Did you know Bentley only uses leather from bulls and not cows because cows can have stretch marks from pregnancy? Bentley even sources bulls from areas where there are minimal mosquitos and no barbed wire so that hides have minimal blemishes.
As far as cleaning and protecting goes, for such a high end product, I recommend you ask your dealer or follow what your owner’s manual recommends.